This post is part of the “I’m a Military Spouse” series, a week-long celebration leading up to Military Spouse Appreciation Day documenting the joys of military spousedom.
I’m a military spouse.
That means I move every one to three years. (Three years is our current all-time record.)
Which means I make friends like I’m speed dating.
Back in my civilian days, I would approach potential friends like a not-so-desperate person. First, I’d spy out women with similar interests or personalities and sit by those potential friends in class or at church. Then, I’d casually spark a conversation about something I noticed we had in common. If the conversation went well, I might mention in passing that we should get together “sometime.” But I wouldn’t make any FIRM plans, because that would be like asking a girl to marry you on the first date.
Too much too soon.
Then, after several run-ins and informal, SAFE experiences, I MIGHT friend that woman on Facebook and eventually send her a Facebook message asking her to coffee — coffee, because eating together requires me to keep in check my animalistic food downing habits that tend to turn off would-be friends who don’t like to watch others devour lettuce wraps like lions.
Eating together is for real friends.
After 12 years of military life, I no longer have any tact. I no longer have any patience. I no longer have any filter. Because I no longer have any TIME. I have two, MAYBE three good years to dig in and get cozy with my girlfriends so we can cry away deployments, hold each other at funerals, lament missed anniversaries and potluck together until the cows come home.
The women I stalk — I mean meet — and I are either going to be BFF or we’re not, and if we’re not, I’d like to know about it on our first Starbucks date. That way, I don’t embarrass myself by sharing my deepest, darkest secrets on a second outing and then have my new friend unfriend me on Facebook later when she realizes I have one big mouth and zero filter.
But I don’t have a year to warm up to decide if we actually WANT to grab coffee before we start talking about surface-level things, like the curtains that fit the last post house but will never fit this one, or the number of boxes we haven’t unpacked from the last PCS move, because by the time we start talking about what’s REALLY going on in our lives, I will be MOVING. We have chocolate to down, FRG events to overcommit ourselves to, husbands to miss and acronyms to learn.
We don’t have time for shallow.
This realization has driven me to some extreme measures in my military friend-making life. (All friends made in the era before Supersoldier issued me a military ID card — count your blessings. And maybe stop reading here. I’d like to salvage your image of our relationship.)
When we moved to Washington and I had gone three weeks without meeting a single friend, I started a Monday Mommy Madness Walk. (What this is, I’m still not sure.) I took a picture of myself holding my screaming toddler, plastered our faces to posters and then listed a time to meet if the poster viewer, too, needed to get out of the house on Mondays.
I stuck these scary things to every mailbox in our neighborhood and waited for women who were obviously dying to be my friend (and friends with my child, who was clearly showing his best side in said photos) to show up to a Monday Mommy Madness Walk. By the grace of God, 10 women showed up. Five decided I wasn’t crazy. Two remain my friends to this day (God bless them).
When we were moving from Texas to Kentucky, a woman I had never met approached me at a speaking event and told me that I just had to be friends with her friend once I moved to Kentucky. Normal people smile, nod and then promptly throw away third-party numbers given to them by strangers at public venues.
I saved mine on the first page of my moving binder.
One of my first emails upon arrival in the Bluegrass State was not to my landlord, my utility company or my family; it was to the friend of this non-friend who I had spoken to for 5 seconds at a speaking engagement. This third party woman, who could have well been a mass murderer for all I knew, had two boys, I had two boys, and we spent our first indoor playland outing discussing God, homeschooling, potty training penises and adoption. And immediately became friends for life.
I became friends with one of my now dear friends when I ran into her two duty stations after our first meeting on a separate coast in a separate church and she hugged me and so beautifully, refreshingly demanded, “I know we’ve never hung out before, but let’s get together. Here’s my number. No, really. Put it in your phone now. Call me this week.”
Together, we stalked our now weekly potlucking friend by illegally using my access to our church’s military ministry email list and repeatedly emailing the woman with the sweet smile and the huge heart until she agreed to be our Thursday night bestie.
By the time my fellow adoptive mama friend and I had spent one Musikgarten class with our toddlers, who played and sang and danced to folk tunes while we rudely chatted through all Miss Susan’s teacher instructions, we were already asking each other how we could help the other with babysitting, meals or medical taxi trips to and from the hospitals that both of us spent so much of our lives at with children with special medical needs. It took a mere few months before we were texting through the night and making big plans to start orphanages together on the homefront of our husbands’ deployments. (Note to Supersoldiers 1 and 2, you should never leave us alone for more than six months at a time.)
(Other dear friends I consider my sisters, I love you just as much as these sisters I met through my super scary stalking ways! Our friendship story is just as precious, and probably less creepy, than these ones that are going to get me kicked off my church’s military ministry team. :))
These friendships may have started in speed dating, but all of them have ended in sisterhood.
You don’t pick lice out of each other's hair, help bury each other's miscarried babies and rip the pants off just anyone in the delivery room as her baby is crowning while her husband is stuck on a broken down plane in Germany.
Once you’ve seen the vajay-jay and heard the drug-less baboon labor wail, we gonna be friends for life.
After starting all over at six duty stations and eight mailing addresses, I’ve actually stopped caring about how my psychotic friend-making practices may appear. In this military life, I need friends more than I need people to believe I’m not crazy for a few good months before they discover the truth. If we’re going to get down and dirty, they should just know up front what a crazy woman I am.
Sisterhood is worth temporary insanity every time.